The 5 Most Common Interview Questions You Must Prepare For
March 30, 2016
Interviews in the life sciences industry require good preparation and have a strong emphasis on quantifiable successes. As in other industries, certain questions crop up regularly that require some planning and careful thought to navigate, including these five common questions.
Why do you want to work here?
A puzzling number of candidates don’t know how to answer this question, and can often seem a bit perplexed when it’s asked. This is a question that you should (and must) ace, as you can easily research the company beforehand and find out where it aligns with your personal goals. You might delve into the company’s training and development offerings, its social responsibility programs, and its past successes as possible reasons you might be inspired to work for the company. This is a very easy question to prepare for and you must aim to impress with your answer and insight into their organisation.
What kind of salary are you looking for?
You need to have an answer ready for this question—or you may find yourself giving an ill-thought out answer (one that you will quite literally pay for later). Research industry standards, speak to your recruitment consultant, and have minimum expectations for salary and benefits packages clearly in mind before you go into the interview. Try to gauge what range they are considering before you give a number so that you have some room to manoeuvre.
Why did you leave your last job?
Even people with stellar employment histories often dread this question, while for those with a recent termination, voluntary redundancy or awkward resignation on their CVs, this question can feel like interview kryptonite. It’s important to be honest, but also cast yourself in the best possible light within that frame of honesty. Also, if you had a poor relationship with your last manager, don’t allow any bitter feelings to show, but explain yourself calmly and with maturity.
What’s your greatest strength?
This is an opportunity that many candidates mess up without even realising they’ve done it. Avoid a vague response like ‘I’m good at managing people’; instead give a concrete answer that shows past behaviour where you’ve succeeded. Draw on a past example such as, ‘When I was Head of Human Resources at Company X, I reduced staff turnover by 40% and created a new performance review and feedback procedure that was taken on by the wider company as best practice.’ Go back over your past employment and scour it for times that you’ve excelled in a quantifiable way that will impress the hiring manager you’ll be sitting in front of. Structure your examples by thinking about the situation you were in, the task or challenge you were facing, the action plan you put in place and lastly the results you achieved. Describing your quantifiable successes in this way is extremely important in the life science industry where not just your experience but your competence is king.
What’s your biggest weakness?
This can be a tricky question to navigate, but again it’s best to find a real example in your past rather than waffling on. The idea here is that you do take an actual weakness, but then frame it in a way that shows that you are aware of it and have taken positive steps to address it. For example, if you’ve struggled with severe perfectionism, you could say something like ‘I used to throw away a lot of time on trying to get every detail right when it made no difference to the end result. It was getting in the way of me doing my job well, so I’ve now found ways to control that perfectionist streak. I still do things to a high standard, but I no longer waste time chasing perfection when it’s not required.’ For you it might be something else, like time management, frustration with other employees, or difficulties with technology- whatever it is, the key issue is that you show that you’ve found a way to overcome it.
There are other common questions of course, from the general ‘Tell us a bit about you’, to the rather confronting ‘Why should we hire you over all the other applicants?’ to the frankly baffling ‘What kind of animal would you be?’ All of these questions can be prepared for- just remember that the interviewer is looking for examples of your past behaviour in order to predict how well you will suit the role on offer – and it’s up to you to pick the examples that reflect you in your best light.